By: Brendalyne Vasquez
Having our identity stolen is a powerful way for criminals to become ghosts, hidden behind a cloak of anonymity. In a world where everything is automated, digital, impersonal and fast, it is not impossible for someone's name and personal information to be accessed by the wrong hands. Identity theft is a very serious matter, around the globe, people have had their identities compromised and have suffered crippling consequences. In the Philippines, cases of these thefts are all the rage. What can we do? How can we prevent/avoid this? Before we create our own action plans, let's know identity theft once again.
What is identity theft? It occurs when someone unlawfully obtains another’s personal information and uses it to commit theft or fraud. Imagine you wanting a cool pair of shoes. You found a seller online offering it at a very reasonable price. You got too excited that you paid the seller without even making sure if the seller is legitimate. Then after paying it, no shoes arrived. It looks like someone used the seller's name to sell stuff online and took the money for personal gain. That leaves you thousands of pesos poorer and a name compromised.
In the Philippines, there are three common types of identity theft which results to fraud:
Credit/Debit Card Fraud - This is done through "skimming", wherein your information stored in your card's magnetic strip is stolen when the card is swiped on transaction. Once the thieves get a hold of this information, a fake card containing the victim's information is reproduced and can now be used for criminal activity.
Internet Scams - The Philippines is one of the world's biggest users of social media sites. Through this, anyone can literally be anyone. Just by creating a new account, criminals can pose as sellers, buyers, family members asking relatives for monetary help. Anything is possible.
Electronic scams - Ever received and e-mail from a financial institution or any other legitimate company? These e-mails may contain messages informing the recipient that their certain online account needs to be updated; therefore, logging in to a realistic-looking website is necessary. By logging in these websites, personal information of the recipient is now ready for stealing. Information such as date of birth, government numbers, contact information, etc. are a few examples of what these criminals are looking for.
So what can we do to not be a victim and not suffer the repercussions? Here are preventive measures that we can practice to not fall preys on these predators:
1. Practice safe internet use. If you receive spam e-mails, text messages asking for personal information, delete it right away. Also make sure that your computer's anti-virus software is updated to make sure your computer is not vulnerable to hacking and that the information stored in your computer is protected.
2. Shred Private Records. Once you've paid your bills or withdrawn money from the ATM, destroy the statements or receipts. This way, your personal records are not going to be easily available and may take a while to decipher. Make sure that any numbers or other personal information are not legible once thrown in the rubbish bin because one of the ways that these criminals obtain information is through dumpster-diving-- looking for receipts and paper statements from the trash.
3. Beware of Scams. Make sure that the person you're communicating with on social media is the real person. If you happen to engage with someone who stole someone else's identity, protect your personal information. Don't give out birth dates, government and personal contact number.
4. Be vigilant. Be responsible. Be brave. If you feel that you've been a victim or about to be a victim of identity theft or any kinds of fraud, don't hesitate to report it to the authorities. Any persons found to be guilty of identity theft will have to serve time according to the specifications of the Cybercrime Act of the Philippines.
Identity theft is like a virus. It constantly evolves and is relentless to find another host. By following these simple steps is like covering ourselves with anti-bodies. Anti-bodies prevents the virus from entering a cell and therefore neutralizes the virus because they need a living host to survive.